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Sure, I was bullied as a kid. But that one boy who tripped me up on my bike, when I fell and broke my arm, I got back at him. I pushed an ice cream cone right in his face, and I don’t remember being bullied ever again. Well, except by a teacher.

Over sushi I was telling the Grands about Catholic school. How we had to sit still with our hands folded in front of us all the time. One teacher made me stand in the corner for half a day, luckily she didn’t have a dunce hat. “Why,” they wanted to know.

“Because I was talking to a boy!”

And I swear, we all broke out in belly laughs. One of the worst moments in my young life seemed pretty comical now. I mean shaming a child, it just doesn’t compute or translate well in today’s world, or maybe it does?

I’ve been having an ‘on and off’ conversation with the Love Bug and the L’il Pumpkin about “bad people” ever since someone stole my wallet while we were having lunch at Panera. What should we do if we have to confront a bad person. Their parents have been telling them that everybody is good, that you turn and walk away from a confrontation, and I get that. You don’t want to color their young minds with horror stories – and yet, they already hate Mr T cause, well, we ALL do.

I was thinking about this after the Democratic debates in Atlanta. I was surprised at how much I like Andrew Yang. He seemed to be the only authentic person up on that stage, like he was talking to me. When he spoke about looking our kids and Grands in the eye, and leaving them a better future, when he shared that he had an autistic child, when he talked about keeping America safe:

While it was well into the debate before Yang spoke, his answers about some of the threats to American society once again, brought new ideas to the debate stage. Artificial intelligence, which he’s mentioned in previous debates, is a future threat that must be taken seriously. And setting up something like a WTO (World Trade Organization) for data? His ingenuity was astounding. Bold ideas suit Yang well — and, when well thought out and pragmatic, they get high points in a debate.  https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/21/opinions/buttigieg-yang-stole-the-show-debate-opinion-graham/index.html

A WTO for Data?!?! I mean, AI is coming, along with the Russians and China, and will we be ready for it? Then the Rocker sent me an article about Yang;  “As President, I will establish a Department of the ATTENTION Economy,” https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/18/perspectives/andrew-yang-technology/index.html

He wants to study what social media is doing to our kids. It’s like “Back to the Future,” will they become (expletive) or something? My kids didn’t have smart phones growing up, tech was in its infancy, email was a new thing. And the Grands don’t have a tablet or phone or anything YET; but they DO use tablets in school and see everyone else around them staring down into their hands. The Love Bug recently asked her Dad if they could have a “Device-Free” day because she’d heard about this from her teachers.

A young mind can become addicted faster than our old brains want to believe. And social media is simply another method for bullies to do what they do best – shame and humiliate. A 12 year old girl in Nashville just committed suicide after being bullied mercilessly. How many “followers” do you have? Did you see that picture of so-and-so on Insta?

Remember how inadequate you felt your Freshman year in high school?  Well, add a few years of comparing yourself to others on top of that. I walked straight outta Catholic school into a public high school, and was lucky to find a bunch of nerdy, pre-college kids to welcome me.

Running around the neighborhood on my bike was pretty care-free in comparison to today, even if a bully thought he could hurt me, I didn’t let him define me. I got even. My not-so-polite message is not to run away from a fight, not to make excuses for someone’s bad behavior. My Grands will eventually meet up with a real “bad person,” they will eventually have a smart phone in their hands or maybe a piece of Borg machinery hard-wired directly into their skulls.

Should we employ algorithms to cap a child’s screen time per day, or just boot them out the door to play? We are experiencing a “GLOBAL epidemic” of childhood inactivity, what do you think? https://www.bbc.com/news/health-50466061

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Stop the presses!

You know how you have to initial a HIPAA form every time you go to a doctor’s office, or a hospital, or a car wash? We Americans like to think our medical records are sacrosanct, we deserve privacy, in fact we demand it. That boil the size of a baseball we had removed from our back in high school – nobody needs to know.

Until now.

Google wants to know our medical history! It’s bad enough they are already taking pictures of our backyards and listening in to our wants and needs, sneaking ads into social media like a flickering lightbulb to a moth. Google has cut a deal with Ascension Health to access troves of its patient data:

Among the data Google reportedly has access to under the deal are lab results, diagnoses, records of hospitalization and dates of birth.

Neither doctors nor patients need to be told that Google can see this information.

The Wall Street Journal reports that data access began last year and was broadened over the summer. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-50388464

Ascension runs 2,600 hospitals, including St Thomas in Nashville.

Along with an overnight dusting of snow, this bit of news sent a chill down my spine. What’s worse is their data trolling started last year! While we’re busy attacking Elizabeth Warren about Medicare for All, this corporate giant stuck its finger in the cookie jar. “Ascension said the deal would help it to “optimise” patient care and would include the development of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to support doctors.” Sorry for the British spelling but I’m quoting the BBC.

Wasn’t I just talking about doctors and AI? I know this is the generation of solipsistic selfies, living their lives online, charting every meal, video taping every hotel room, uploading their songs to YouTube in search of InstaFame. Jumping onto Tic Toc which I don’t even understand.

I had an appointment with a retina specialist yesterday at Vandy, about my little West Nile incident 20 years ago, and people were sitting like zombies in a dark, crowded waiting room with dilated pupils staring into their smart phones. HGTV was on in the corner but everyone was glued to their tiny black mirror. I was thinking to myself, why not get rid of all the TVs in doctor waiting rooms, and what kind of neck problems will this generation have?

I still thought we had a right to our own medical records. And granted, this blog is a peek into the window of my soul, but do we no longer care about privacy… at all?

Send in the lawyers! Here is my lame attempt at a selfie in that old ice cream parlor.

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In the next few days, two famous women will be released from US prisons. One is a celebrity we all know and love for her acting chops, who did the right thing. Felicity Huffman was only trying to leverage her daughter’s chances at getting into a good college, and was the first parent to plead guilty in a bizarre scheme of “pay to play” in order to enhance SAT scores. It would seem Huffman has a conscience and admitted the error of her ways. The other woman, Maria Butina, is a Russian asset.

Without much fanfare, Butina will find herself in a Miami deportment center this weekend en route to Moscow.

According to the FBI, in 2015 Butina emailed a US Republican lobbyist Paul Erickson, who she reportedly dated and lived with, a project proposal called “diplomacy”. It centred around using NRA links to influence the US Republican Party’s foreign policy and their traditionally hostile stance toward Russia.”  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-50180445

And we all thought Russia was just searching for Hillary’s emails and manipulating Facebook ads to influence the 2016 election. Butina is like a modern day Mata Hari – only instead of facing a firing squad for her role as a double agent during the First World War, Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to just ONE count of conspiracy. Her handler was reportedly Alexander Torshin – “…an influential former member of the Russian senate and deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank.”

One might think they were laundering money through the NRA.

Butina grew up in Siberia and loved playing with guns. Her chief concern was herself however, telling the court she regrets “…ruining my own life.” When she steps off a plane in Russia I wonder what will happen to her? Will she be a returning hero, or will she be sent back to Siberia?

I heard Martha Stewart said that Huffman looked “frumpy” in her prison garb. That immediately ticked me off, I mean really? Martha, Martha, Martha! I would think that once you’ve done time in a women’s prison you’d have a smidgen of empathy for other celebrities suffering the same fate. After all, there are no hair and make-up experts tending to you, no aestheticians or mani-pedis happening behind those walls. I will never again buy her “Living” magazine, no matter how much I think I could craft a beautiful table setting.

So a Russian operative can plot to takeover our democracy, and she gets 18 months in prison and then is deported. A Hollywood star can swindle and bribe her daughter’s way into college, and she gets released after 11 days in prison (out of a 14 day sentence). And then there’s the old news –  a lifestyle “expert” and magazine mogul got caught lying to investigators in an insider trading scandal and she served 5 months in prison followed by 5 months confined to her Connecticut estate.

Then Martha sold her empire for 355 Million US dollars in 2015 telling the media a coverup is so much worse than the original crime. Now for some odd reason she’s associated with Snoop Dog. I hope he will school her about criticizing other female felons while they are whipping up a batch of brownies. Their friendship is the one shining light in this reality show world.

We were recently toasting marshmallows for our own private HGTV episode.

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The birds are disappearing!

North America has lost a quarter of its bird population in the last 50 years! That’s a loss of nearly 3 Billion birds in just half a century, and according to the National Audubon study, it’s not the exotic types that are vanishing:

“…the most ubiquitous birds have been the hardest hit. “The common wisdom was that we’d see the rare and threatened species disappearing and the common, human-adapted ones taking over,” Rosenberg says. Instead, his team found that 90 percent of the missing birds came from just 12 families, and that they were all familiar, perchy, cheepy things such as sparrows, warblers, blackbirds, finches, larks, starlings, and swallows… It’s as if all birds are canaries, and the entire world their coal mine.”  https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/09/america-has-lost-quarter-its-birds-fifty-years/598318/

Now most of you know that I love birds. I used to feed them all the time until we moved to the mountains of Virginia and decided they had enough food in the wild and I didn’t need to attract bears to my backyard.

I’ve recently hung a hummingbird feeder on the urban farmhouse porch without much success, but I’ve been told by a friend they are currently migrating and I might have better luck luring those tiny, iridescent, super fast babies in the Spring. For now, we listen to mourning doves coo to each other in our garden.

When we lived in the Berkshire Mountains, and the kids were little, I’d have wild guinea hens under my feeder, and whole families of cardinals would romp around our home on the edge of an actual bird sanctuary. While Grandma Ada was collecting blue birds in all shapes and sizes, I started collecting glass cardinals as my lucky, totem bird.

Grandpa Hudson carved a cardinal into the top of our family totem pole when we moved back to New Jersey. And though I could hear them foraging in the early morning hours, I became a fan of the abundant shore birds I saw migrating over our swamp wetlands. Herons and egrets sailed like ships across our low-slung Rumson ranch house out to the river at daybreak and dusk.

Woodpeckers performed like precision drillers across our Virginia valley when we built a small house with a view of the Blue Ridge. Their rat-a-tat noise would ricochet between the ridges as they searched for food. One day I sat in my car for an hour watching two pileated woodpeckers attack a log in the driveway. We knew them by the singular way they would fly, as if their substantial heft made them descend a little bit with every wing stroke. They skipped across the sky.

I would never keep a bird in the house, in a cage. Don’t judge me, I just couldn’t.

Today, if you are walking out of school or work to protest our climate crisis I salute you! Because it’s a world-wide problem that is calling for some extraordinary solutions.

It’s not just about carbon – though we must address that. We are living comfortably with just one car, walking more isn’t just healthy for us, it’s helping the environment. But deforestation causes 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions, equal to vehicular emissions. https://www.conservation.org/stories/11-climate-change-facts-you-need-to-know

It’s not just about the sea rising and glaciers melting – a significant reason for human migration. Where will Miami be in 10 years, or Sea Bright, NJ for that matter? In our Southern city, government has decided to pay property owners to move out of flood zones! Which is good, cause my grand dogs were swimming in their flooded basement when the Bride and Groom first moved here in 2010. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/06/climate/nashville-floods-buybacks.html

And it’s not just about the birds and the bees!

Thank you to Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old Swedish climate activist who saw what Parkland students did to mobilize gun reform after a massacre at their school. They started a revolution because gun violence in our country is an URGENT problem. And just look what they have started with AR-15 manufacturers, Colt suspended rifle production for civilians! : https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49766257

We also need to sign the Paris Agreement now. Greta asks us to listen to the scientists, because Climate Change should be a global, URGENT priority!

Republican tactics of denial, delay, and disinformation will no longer be tolerated. But don’t just walk out of school this morning – after your #ClimateStrike today students, register to vote if you will turn 18 by next November. Our birds and our fish and our future are depending on you.

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It was almost 2 am, my mind was a jumble of raw nerve endings. I tried to concentrate on my breath, to meditate my way back to sleep, but I ended up instead tracing the alphabet with my feet. Ankle exercises can be comforting. Then it suddenly got very dark. tomb-like-dark. And it was quiet, no house humming quiet. I wondered if it was just that Bob’s phone stopped lighting up. He had returned from a trip to FL, visiting his brother. But the alarm clock was black; our power was out.

Today it’s supposed to creep up toward 100 degrees, one of the hottest days of the year.

So what did I do? I woke Bob of course, after all maybe it was just a fuse that needed to switch. But it was the whole street, all the street lamps were out, thousands of people without power.

Are you a midnight wanderer? Do you raid the refrigerator at night, or watch TV when you can’t sleep? I’m a Reader with a capital R. So after 2 hours of mingling our feet and talking by flashlight, commiserating about our old whole house generator in the mountains, when the power finally came back on I picked up a National Geographic magazine about Migration.

It was like a crash course in “How Not to be a White Supremacist!” Because 1) tracing DNA has become so affordable, and 2) some tiny, miniscule bone in our inner ear that is the most dense bone in our body has been storing all of our primitive ancestors’ secrets since the Ice Age, therefore 3) anthropologists have been able to trace the Three Great Human Migrations!

“Who Were the First Europeans?” by Andrew Curry is in this month’s issue A WORLD ON THE MOVE. “Europeans living today, in whatever country, are a varying mix of ancient bloodlines hailing from Africa, the Middle East, and the Russian Steppe.” In other words neo-Nazis, get over yourselves and your replacement theory. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/07/first-europeans-immigrants-genetic-testing-feature/

We are all descendants of farmers who tolerated nomads (hunter/gatherers) and then rode horses across continents as plague almost decimated our species. That’s a pretty small nutshell, but some people were dark with green eyes, and some were light with brown eyes and somehow we managed to survive, together. Last night:

I was worrying about the Love Bug who starts 2nd Grade today. We spent the afternoon together and she had a fever, an ear infection, would her parents send her to school?

I was worrying about Great Grandma Ada, because she worries about me all the time so I thought I’d return the favor.

I was worrying about children separated from their parents because I was separated from my Mother the Flapper when I was 10 months old.

This morning I was surprised by how low the Trump administration could go, though I really shouldn’t have been. He is changing the rules and regulations for LEGAL immigrants to obtain a green card, making it more difficult to obtain visas or become citizens. Why you may ask? If a person has relied on any form of public assistance for more than ONE year, they will be invited to leave! The article was hiding inside the BBC News website. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49323610

This bears repeating – LEGAL Immigrants who do not meet the GOP’s rules of “self-sufficiency” will be deported. So legal immigrants working part-time at Walmart will have to go if they rely on food aid or public housing….

I didn’t go to this year’s East Nashville Tomato Festival because Bob wasn’t here, but also because I’m becoming afraid of crowds. What keeps you up in the middle of the night?

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Last night was a magical, musical night. It started with a moment of silence for the victims in El Paso and Dayton. Someone in the crowd – all Democrats there to support our Rabbi’s husband, James Mackler for Senate, a young lawyer and ex-fighter pilot – yelled out, “Don’t forget California!” The Garlic Festival in Gilroy the weekend before, do you remember?

Singer songwriter Mary Gauthier started off the evening talking about working with the wives and girlfriends of our enlisted men, the families left behind when they are sent off to fight overseas. They don’t wait by the phone, they take over and carry the emotional weight of their loved one’s service. Her lyrics brought tears to my eyes:

“Who’s gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who went to war
Land mines in the living room eggshells on the floor
I lost myself in the shadow of your honor and your pain
You stare out the window as our dreams go down the drain
Invisible, the war after the war”

It was an Air Force Veteran, a man who had a history of abusing his wife, who opened
fire at a church only a year and a half ago in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Remember him, he was chased down by a passer-by in his car before shooting himself. A pregnant woman died in the carnage, along with several children. He killed 26 people in total before turning the AR-556 on himself.

Sutherland Springs still holds the gruesome record for mass shootings in Texas; the death toll has risen from 19 to 22 in El Paso.

Emmy Lou Harris took the stage and talked about her Father, who had enlisted after Pearl Harbor. He was one of the lucky ones who came home from WWII, married his sweetheart and shielded his family from the real cost of service to our country. The wounded warriors who carry on, working and raising a family, who never pick up a gun again.

“EmmaLou” started off by joining Mary in the chorus to “Mercy Now.” Years ago in a TED lecture Mary said: “Trauma goes deeper than words, but music can get into those places.” 

Yesterday Mr T said, “”Mental illness and hate pull the trigger, not the gun.” I read about his words because I cannot bear to listen to him speak. Instead I walked the Grand Dogs. But really Mr President? Do you think we have more mental illness in this country than say France or Britain or Australia? Do we have more hate?? The charts in this BBC article will help: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41488081

GUNS kill people Mr President, and we ALL have to admit we have a problem before we can fix it! You must think the American people are stupid! Let’s take the Senate and start with that background check bill languishing at Mitch’s feet. Let’s ban assault rifles, nobody would shoot a deer with one of those things. We may have reached a tipping point.

EmmaLou ended the evening with John Lennon’s, “Imagine.” Let’s start dreaming we can fix this gun-drenched nightmare once and for all. And let’s get to work registering new voters!

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It’s the happiest season of all, right? But what to do if you’re not Christian, or even a lapsed-Catholic or Christian-light, or maybe Jewish or Muslim? Well, child psychologists can always tell us what to do, and lately they’ve been taking all the fun out of December.

First it was, teach your kids they don’t have to hug Aunt Fannie – that relative you see maybe once or twice a year who insists on a hug and a kiss. And now, we are being told to spill the goods on Santa – don’t lie to your kids about Santa!

“Do you believe in Santa Claus Mommy?” the Love Bug asked my daughter in the car the other day. Why do they always come up with such earth-shattering questions in the car? Of course I wanted to know what she said, but the Bride only said she stalled, making me feel like somehow I’d failed. Because even though Bob and I were raising our children in the Jewish faith, I never gave up on Santa Claus

I mean I didn’t leave him milk and cookies. We didn’t have any naughty elves sneaking around our bookshelves. There were no blinking trees in our living room either. And they never knew when Santa would arrive, silently gliding down our chimney – it might happen during Hannukah, or maybe on Christmas morning. But I felt it viscerally, that memory of a big, kind guy in a red suit visiting children all over the world to fulfill their wishes. And I wanted to keep that magic alive in my family.

But according to this BBC article, if a child is old enough to ask about Santa, they are old enough for the truth. No, Virginia, there is nobody.

“You shouldn’t lie about Santa because you are encouraging your children, usually with made-up proof, to believe a morally ambiguous lie. I’m not alone in being devastated learning of my parents’ elaborate deceit about Santa, leaving me to wonder what other lies they had told.

Santa supposedly encourages imagination but, as noted in this article, and others, you’re really asking children to suspend criticality and believe a fiction. As this piece suggests, fantasy and imagination work because we choose to believe what we know isn’t true. Far from promoting wonder, the Santa story encourages children to be consumers of others’ ideas.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20181211-why-you-shouldnt-lie-to-your-children-about-santa

Today is the sixth anniversary of the shooting at Newtown Elementary School. Those children, who were the same age as my grand daughter, will never have the chance to ask about Santa Claus. They will never go caroling again with their parents. When our government failed to pass any meaningful gun control legislation after that, long before Sandy Hook, I lost my faith again. Only this time, it was with our country.

Last night we read about a 7 year old Guatemalan girl who died of dehydration and exhaustion at the border of New Mexico. She was in OUR custody with her father for more than 8 hours before seizures began. This actually happened last week, according to the Washington Post:

“The ACLU blamed “lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP (Customs and Border Patrol)” for the girl’s death. “The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths,” Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said in a statement.”  

So maybe we should tell our kids the truth, always. Because buying into a fairy tale, quasi-religious belief that leaves Mrs Claus at home in the North Pole while her husband gets all the credit for one night’s work does seem antiquated. Maybe we must be brutally honest with ourselves first. And not expect falsehhoods to turn into facts simply because a great, orange-headed beast keeps repeating them…

It’s almost like selling someone a bill of goods about fossil fuels, and promising to fulfill all your wishes, just because you have your name on a few buildings.

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